What’s a ‘She-session’ and is SC heading for one?

Updated: May. 12, 2020 at 5:46 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Is South Carolina heading for a “she-session”?

The term being used by a Canadian economist describes the economic burden women are facing because of COVID-19 might also apply to the Palmetto State.

Nationally, the coronavirus is having a big impact on the job market. Data from the Labor Department and analyzed by NPR shows 55% of people have recently lost their jobs are women. That's a high number considering women make up 49% of the workforce, according to that same agency.

Digging deeper, as of April, men had an unemployment rate of 13.5%, the national rate was 14.7% and women had a rate of 16.2%.

Ann Warner, the CEO of the South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN), said recessions have hit men more because they traditionally make up a larger share of the labor force, but this economic crisis is different.

“It really is hitting industries that are dominated by women -- retail, hospitality, childcare, health care. Women work in a lot of those jobs and those jobs in many industries are being cut right now,” Warner said.

Economic researcher at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business Dr. Joseph Von Nessen agreed and added leisure and hospitality are one of the top industries in our state.

“We don’t have any hard data on the state of South Carolina on how the pandemic layoffs are impacting men versus women, but we do know the industries and occupations that are hardest hit in South Carolina tend to have more of a concentration of more of a female workforce,” Von Nessen said.

However, Von Nessen said while we don’t have the most recent economic data, we know the industries that have been the hardest hit and can compare that to the gender divide in those job sectors.

“For example, we see that food services and waitstaff, they tend to be about 55% women, personal care and related services are about 80% women and health care, practitioners are about 80% women as well,” he said.

South Carolina also has one of the highest rates of female business growth in our country, according to Warner. She said this means many women entrepreneurs may have closed their doors and laid off their staff.

Warner and said her organization has found that women make up more than two-thirds of all frontline and essential workers. She said this means some women with children have been faced with the difficult decision of continuing to go to work and make an income or had to quit to care for their kids who are out of school and to protect them from potentially getting infected.

“We are hearing that there are really tough choices that we have to make,” she said. “Some of us are lucky that we can work from home and juggle, but for a lot of women, they don’t have that luxury.”

Von Nessen added that the only industry that rivals leisure and hospitality in South Carolina is manufacturing, which he said is male-dominated.

Other groups Von Nessen and Warner are paying attention to at this time are women of color and younger women. How all these people were impacted by the most recent coronavirus economic restrictions will be more clear at the end of the month when South Carolina’s economic data is released by the Department of Employment and Workforce.

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